Deciding what to bake can be either a ridiculously easy task or one that makes me change my mind a hundred times up until the last minute I am about to bake.
Or sometimes, I don't even bake at all. Shocker! It happened this past weekend.
Often times, I am trying to use up something that I already have—some fruit that is reaching its prime, some special ingredient that I used in something else or often something out of my freezer. Instead of baking this past weekend, I made a freezer inventory list. It probably has over 50 items on it which is kind of amazing considering how small my freezer is. But, I was happy about that. It's now the most organized I have seen it in a long time. After several frozen fingers and some cursing, it will hopefully make it easier for me to finish little bits of this and that that I tend to accumulate so I can go forth and make new things!
Speaking of new things, I love it when I already have everything I need to bake. It's basically validation that the recipe was meant to be. When it came to this recipe, it sat on the back burner for quite a lot less time than usual. I stumbled upon it reading Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette which I go back to when I can. She has some of the most thought-provoking and beautiful writing. I aspire to write as well as she does. The recipes she shares are often simple but flavorful like these Butterscotch Blondies she shared from The Violet Bakery Cookbook.
I have always been a true believer of blondies. Growing up, I always thought chocolate chip cookies were forbidden. My mom often refused to make them because she said they never came out right. Instead she would make Chocolate Chews, which are delicious but also not chocolate chip cookies. Blondies on the other hand were much easier to make and thick, moist and chewy. They were much less temperamental and if I asked nicely, she would make them for me so I could send them to my boyfriend at the time. They are also more sturdy to send via the mail and less prone to getting stale because of how thick they were (Pro-tip if you are looking for cookies to send).
When I saw that this recipe of blondies not only included the usual amounts of butter, sugar and chocolate but on top of that caramel shards, I immediately bookmarked this recipe for a very near future baking experience. It may be intimidating to make your own hard caramel. This was certainly my first time and I thought it had initially crystallized but it worked out in the end. I figured if it did crystallize, it would just be melted again anyways and it wouldn't matter. And if it was truly a fail, it was only sugar and water so I could try again. Once cooled, cut the caramel shards in pieces (no bigger than a quarter). If they are too big, it's like biting in a piece of hard candy. I think mine were a little too big in some places. Sorry to those who encountered such pieces! Cutting the shards is a bit nerve wracking. I felt like I should be wearing goggles or a welding mask as the shards are definitely capable of flying everywhere. Use caution but be brave, this is critical to this recipe.
The batter comes together in the usual manner of blondies batter. It's a two bowl type of thing where the liquids are whisked together in one bowl and the dry in another and then you can combine. No fancy equipment is necessary either which I love. For the chocolate, I chose dark chocolate bars that I roughly chopped in chunks. I wanted big pieces of chocolate to accompany the pieces of caramel shard.
I chose to double the original recipe since I was bringing these blondies to both a Hapkido movie night and to share at work. The original recipe calls to place the brownies in a 9"x13"-ish pan, but since I doubled it, I placed the dough in a half sheet pan (13"x19"-ish) and it worked beautifully. Once you spread the dough in the pan, carefully distribute the shards on top. It creates a cool glass-like effect which later looks like stained glass once they melt into the dough.
These are intoxicating coming out of the oven and I had to sneak a bite of the just warm cookie and melted caramel shard. At work, we are a big fan of going next door and buying a box of Heath Cookies. I am going to put it out there and say that these are "Better than Heath Cookie Blondies". Sorry to my friends in the bakery department, but I would definitely, definitely choose one of these any day. I am adding them into the list of things to make to woo everyone with baked goodness love.
Best of course, with a glass of milk.
I have to say, these are probably some of my favorite food photos I have taken in a long while. The blossoms really do make a dreamy difference.
I doubled this recipe and it yielded approximately 30 2"x2" blondies. This quantity calls for saving half of the Caramel Shards for another batch, but since I doubled it, I used all of it.
The original recipe calls for milk chocolate, but I am a semisweet/bittersweet/dark fan so went that route. Feel free to use what you prefer!
For the Caramel Shards, use right away, or store leftovers in a plastic container or bag in the freezer for up to three months. Do not store in the fridge, or the caramel will soften and get tacky.
- 2 tablespoons water
- 150 grams (¾ cup) sugar
- 250 grams (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 300 grams (1¾ cups) golden brown sugar
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 240 grams (1¾ cups) all-purpose flour
- 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- 125 grams (4½ ounces) chocolate, chopped
- 75 grams (2½ ounces) caramel shards
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
Put the water into a small, light-colored saucepan. (Don’t use a dark-colored pan; you won’t be able to see the color of the caramel as it changes and darkens.) Add the sugar, and place over medium-low heat until the sugar starts to dissolve. Resist the temptation to stir the pan, because agitation will cause the sugar to crystallize around the edges. Once the sugar starts to dissolve, raise the heat to medium-high – watch the pan closely and constantly! – and continue to cook until the caramel is a dark golden brown, a deep shade of walnut.
Pour the caramel immediately onto the parchment paper in a thin, even layer. If necessary, lift and tilt the pan to coax the caramel to spread evenly. Allow to cool completely.
Lift the parchment from the sheet pan, and place on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut the cooled caramel into smallish shards, ideally no bigger than a quarter. Be careful, because the caramel is hard and the shards are sharp.
Preheat the oven to 320°F. Grease a 9"x-13" (or thereabouts) baking pan, and line it with parchment.
In a small, heavy pan, melt the butter over low heat. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until frothy. Whisk in the melted butter.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and kosher salt. Add the flour mixture to the egg-and-butter mixture, along with the chocolate. Mix until just combined.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Sprinkle the caramel shards over the top of the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the center is puffed and looks set.
Leave to cool completely in the pan. Then cut into squares or rectangles of whatever size you’d like.
Store the blondies in an airtight container at room temperature. They’re best within three days.